The slow art of papermaking, poetry and calligraphy


What happens to a piece of paper after it has outlived its purpose?

What else does it want to say when there is no space left?

Chinese calligraphers of old were taught never to tear or misuse any piece of writing even after it has served its purpose. Instead, all pieces of writing were burnt in a little pagoda found in every district of a city. This burning was an act of respect for the written word. Driven by this philosophy, calligrapher Malik Mazlan and poet Dave Tai explore the longevity of the written word. How far can a piece of writing go if, instead of being destroyed, it is remade into a canvas, forming the foundation of a new work?

Afterwords is a collaboration between Malik and Dave to incorporate paper-making into their respective art forms. Malik and Dave turn paper waste from drafts, past projects and personal items in their lives into new canvases. New poems and calligraphy are inked on these canvases, creating a multi-layered commentary on their past works, sustainability and growth.

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Artist Profiles


Malik Mazlan

Malik Mazlan is a Malay Singaporean calligrapher whose interest in Chinese calligraphy took him throughout Asia from Tokyo to Beijing. As a young calligrapher, he aspires to use the skills and insights obtained from Chinese arts and calligraphy to reflect a multi-cultural society.


Dave Tai

Dave is a writer who got his start in poetry by writing haiku on the streets. With a co-creative approach, he has since taken his poetry to festivals and events, creating poems on the spot, based on conversations with his subjects.

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1 / 17

A calligraphy demonstration is fleeting. It exists for mere moments and the performance is over.

However, behind each stroke is hard-earned repetition. For a performance of 马到成功, Malik practised writing the phrase for an entire month before its actual performance.

This piece laminates multiple recycled layers of 马到成功 to create an echo of the work that goes behind each performance.

arrival img
Calligraphy drafts of 马到成功

the tireless horse / across a month of inky storms / arrives upon clear skies / beneath the calligrapher’s strokes



2 / 17

Lunar Calendar Project

As the lunar new year faded into the past, Malik’s lunar calendar project started to lose its relevance.

However, it was given new life upon the solar eclipse of 2019. Pulped and sun-dried as the sun and moon crossed paths, the recycled lunar calendar represents new opportunities that come with time.


fate beckons / as missed opportunities / blooms into new beginnings / within promised tomorrows



3 / 17

On Dave’s first day at ofo, the bike-sharing giant, he was handed a yellow notebook.

In this notebook, he jotted down the ambitions of the company — six million yellow smart bicycles across 25 cities within a year. Double that the next.

Its dream-fuelled momentum eventually knocked the giant off its balance.


Yellow notebook from ofo (bikesharing start-up)

the yellow bike balances / between bottomless ambitions and unstoppable momentum / full speed towards a rude awakening



4 / 17

Traditional Chinese tearaway calendar

The traditional Chinese calendar has always fascinated Dave and Malik.

It doesn’t simply tell you the date but also your fortune if you know where to look.

By tearing away each piece at the end of the day, the calendar brings new hope that tomorrow will be better.


promises of tomorrow / beckons within infinite unknowns / where hope and possibilities / dance until a new dawn arrives



5 / 17

Even with mobile technology, nothing quite replaces the feeling you get when you receive a love letter.

The anticipation when removing the letter, the handwritten quirks of a lover’s penmanship and to hold the same piece of paper, makes the connection deeper and more private than any encrypted message on the cloud.

A set of letter exchanges between a man and his lover in Singapore General Hospital is given new life in this piece and transformed into a symbol of their deep longing for one another.


Old love

words unspoken spill / from one longing heart / into another



6 / 17

This piece is a mock certificate created by recycling old certificates.

The certificate is starting to lose its power in an increasingly connected world where there are many more ways for people to prove their value.

How will you show your worth in the new decade?



This certificate certifies for his dedication to achieving certification.

inked names and gilded papers/ echoes of emptiness to mark nothingness / and in nothingness / recognition



7 / 17

School records

Created from Malik’s school records, it reflects the first instance in his journey when he learns to develop patience. An essential value to a calligrapher.

from the seeds of lessons forgotten / blossoms within the patient heart



8 / 17

The stamps from the past are marks of communication and bond. Each stamp is a promise that a message will reach its intended destination. And also, a hope that it will be met with a reply.

These stamps have been recycled as a new canvas but the marks they leave behind remain the same.



conversations across space and time / find a way between bonds / marked by stamps



9 / 17

National Geographic Magazine

The collages that Dave creates come partly from his collection of National Geographic magazines.

They were his window into the world as a child and stirred in him a curiosity for the unknown.


the world beckons / from the depths of the wild unknown / the hearts of adventurers swell



10 / 17

Dave’s first taste of office life was as an intern at the Walt Disney Company.

There, he saw what it took to create dreams from behind the scenes. This piece is recycled from the notes he took during his time there.


Disney Notebook

behind the dreams / beyond the fog / an uncanny magic / settles on the factory floor



11 / 17

Social Studies Textbooks

One of Singapore’s old name was Xingzhou meaning an island surrounded by stars.

The stars referred to the boats scattered across Singapore’s shores, shimmering from afar at night.

Made from the pages of Social Studies textbooks, this piece is a nod to Singapore’s journey.

surrounded by stars / amidst the infinite ocean / the island keeps reaching out



12 / 17

People have a strange relationship with fortune. They acknowledge that it is beyond their control, yet there are so many practices intended for hacking fortune.

Putting up 福 posters is a staple of good fortune during Chinese New Year and this piece is made from the 福 posters drafts created during a calligraphy workshop.


Chinese New Year Calligraphy drafts


within handmade prosperity / the gears of fortune flips



13 / 17

人 ren meaning “people” and 入 ru meaning “entrance” bear a close resemblance to each other.

Created from recycled work-in-progress drafts of the SINGAPO人 exhibition at level 2, this piece highlights the exhibition as an entry-point to Chinese Singaporean culture.


Drafts of SINGAPO人 exhibition mockups

at the edge / of a new world / an invisible everyday / explores open minds



14 / 17

Trading Cards


Trading card games were a staple of childhood pastimes. Through pieces of cards, children built their own otherworldly armies and had their first taste of power.

This piece is created through discarded trading cards, revisiting childhood memories and the transition to when cards became just cards.

the conquerer’s army in hand / 50% strategy 55% luck / boy becomes king / until the next shuffle



15 / 17

There is no shortcut when it comes to learning Chinese calligraphy.

Made from Chinese grid practice sheets, this piece represents the unseen hard work that goes into every calligraphy character.


Chinese grid practice sheets

in repetition repetition repetition / perfection perfecting perfect strokes



16 / 17

Poetry card typos

Dave started writing poetry when he took his typewriter to the streets and wrote haiku on demand for strangers.

This piece, made from haiku cards with typos, highlights how the connections made in those moments were more important than the words on the card.

within fleeting encounters / a chance connection forged / upon a new error



17 / 17

For the Chinese, paper is not simply a medium for communication. It also bridges the living and the deceased through the burning of joss paper and hell notes.

Created from recycled joss paper, this piece symbolises our desire to connect across all aspects of our lives and beyond.

Joss paper and hell notes


bonds beyond this world / our connection to the next / lives between the flames of today / and the ashes of tomorrow

Travelling Exhibitions Information

Afterwords will be travelling to various public libraries.
Locations and dates as below.

Library Location Exhibition Period 2021
Central Public Library Level 8 12 April to 31 May
Jurong Regional Library Level 1, 1C 1 June to 30 June
Ang Mo Kio Public Library Level 2, Exhibition Space 1 July to 31 July
Clementi Public Library Library Central 1 August to 31 August
Cheng San Public Library Level 3 1 September to 30 September
Bedok Public Library Level 3 Foyer 1 October to 30 October
Toa Payoh Public Library Level 1 1 November to 30 November
Woodlands Regional Library Level 1 1 December to 31 December

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